Reds suffer once more for lack of market focus

Ed Woodward

Manchester United’s board, it was said, moved to fire David Moyes early so the new manager might enjoy a head start in the transfer market this summer. One wonders, with just over two weeks until the World Cup begins in Brazil, whether the club’s executives have considered the meaning of irony. Indeed, Louis van Gaal’s appointment, although widely praised by players, media and supporters alike, is set to confer little immediate edge, necessitating a late market scramble in which executive vice chairman Ed Woodward is patently ill-equipped to succeed.

van Gaal’s delayed appointment, together with this summer’s tournament, means that United must instigate summer business without the Dutchman’s direct involvement – or potentially wait until late summer for the 62-year-old to start his new job in earnest. It is a crucial point, with Woodward’s lack of market connections brutally exposed last year, and Sir Alex Ferguson now largely marginalised within the United hierarchy.

In fact the club has little room for manoeuvre. van Gaal is tied up until mid-July and the club’s pre-season tour commences at the Rose Bowl just 11 days after the World Cup concludes.

United’s busy schedule will divert focus away from the market. Training will have officially recommenced for non-World Cup bound players more than a week before United faces LA Galaxy in Pasedena. The tour schedule potentially concludes on 4 August at the Sun Life Stadium in Miami. Meanwhile, the Premier League resumes on 16 August, with the transfer window closing at midnight on 1 September.

The effect, with much of the Moyes-era scouting and preparatory worked now comprehensively ditched, is to considerably shorted United’s window, decrease the margin for error, and potentially instigate a last-minute rush for talent that has terrifying echoes of last summer’s farce.

Yet, United can ill afford further transfer gaffes in the coming weeks, no matter how large the supposed budget. After all, the departures of Rio Ferdinand and Nemanja Vidić, together with desperately required midfield restructuring, necessitates a significant influx of new talent.

If Javier Hernández is, as expected, granted a post-World Cup exit, or Danny Welbeck obtains an escape from his “unhappiest season,” United may well need striking reinforcements too. This is to say little about the future of wingers Nani, Antonio Valenica and Ashley Young. In an era of evolving tactics, van Gaal’s belief in width remains unshaken, but his faith in the aforementioned underperforming trio is surely far less profound.

Set aside potential disruption among United’s forwards and van Gaal is seeking an experienced central defender, new left back, two central midfielders and a wide player as a minimum. In a summer set to be busier than most the club can ill afford time lost. All of which also leaves United prey to the whims of predatory agents and rivals seeking a premium from a club desperate for reinforcements.

Still, the Dutchman’s arrival has at least brought a swift conclusion to speculation surrounding a move for Cesc Fabregas – a love long unrequited – or the outstanding Bayern Munich midfielder Toni Kroos. Reds of a more cynical bent have long suspected the latter of playing United for fools amid ongoing contract negotiations with the Bavarians. After all, the fool is a role Woodward ably perfected last summer.

Nor is the Reds move for the £30 million Southampton left-back Luke Shaw now guaranteed, with Chelsea offering genuine competition for the 18-year-old’s signature. The price, hefty contract demands, and player’s lack of top flight experience, rank the transfer as one of United’s riskiest in recent times, even if Shaw has the potential to garner a place among the game’s élite. The fall-back full-back options of Alexander Buttner, a re-signed Patrice Evra, or a plethora of alternates, brings no guarantee of renewed defensive solidity.

Meanwhile, Moyes’ answer to the club’s ongoing central midfield problem, Sporting’s William Carvalho, is now available on the open market. United is seemingly no longer the front-runner for the 22-year-old’s signature, if interested at all. And yet competition for midfielders will be fierce this summer, with Manchester City, Chelsea and Barcelona each seeking world-class reinforcement.

Predictably an information vacuum has left the international media to file a raft of stories forecasting United’s swoop for a clutch of Dutch players: Daley Blind, Jordy Clasie and Bruno Martins Indi. There are column inches to fill, but few of them are given to real substance.

The truth, however, is that United remains far from completing a significant amount of rebuilding this summer, with the new manager required to deliver Champions League qualification as a bare minimum in 2015. Indeed, the erosion of United’s brand value, if not yet the share price, leaves the club’s bean counters on sharp alert for any sign of impending failure next season. Moyes understands better than most that there is little patience for the long-term view insincerely spun after the Scot’s appointment.

Brilliant though van Gaal was proven at Ajax, Barcelona, Bayern and the Dutch national team, he has rarely suffered for a lack of raw ingredients at some of Europe’s finest clubs. The veteran secured the 1995 Champions League with a youthful Ajax outfit, but it is a process for which van Gaal does not boast the luxury of time at Old Trafford.

All the more reason to arm the new man with high-class acquisitions - and the time to bed players into club, squad, and team. van Gaal is seemingly unlikely to enjoy the latter. The former is open to significant question.

It leaves the club on the edge and supporters increasingly restless at the ongoing lack of communication, let alone market activity. Eight years of Glazer ownership has instilled an acute sense of cynicism towards the club’s penchant for transfer market spin over real substance.

This sense of distrust is now firmly bound to the executive vice chairman, who is an expert in briefing the nation’s fourth estate, but seemingly inept at executing on key transfer market deals.

Yet, amid the scrabble to reinforce United’s ailing squad it is curious that United should choose the moment to laud Woodward’s appointment as “chairman of the European Club Association marketing and communications working group.” The former J.P. Morgan banker is an expert in the global marketing of United’s brand. Communications is often lacking.

It is an observation that can also be made of United’s focus. Once again the club is seemingly left behind. Woodward has little time to prove the doubters wrong.

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Comments

  1. ‘You go Glenn Coco!’ – Ed Woodward, 2013

  2. Best get it right this time around. http://t.co/55CpdYv3Zw

  3. accurate and thoroughly depressing read.

  4. Van gaal buy as u can

  5. when i tried 2 point out the same thing on Rcafe few years ago, i got bitch slpd i am telln u now nxt year is gonna be worse

  6. I’m genuinely baffled by how the pursuit of Shaw can just ‘stall’. Fee almost agreed, player keen then……nowt.

    • Why are you baffled? We want him, are desperate, and will wait. But, by all accounts, Shaw is a Chelsea fan and by stalling on United it buys time for other clubs to reveal an interest; preferably a Champions League one and ideally for him Chelsea. Add a not inconsiderable World Cup in to the mix and the fact Cole has been released and we’ve resigned Evra… It might well still happen, but from his point of view what does he gain by signing for United now?

  7. Which is worse? Duplicitous intent or gross incompetence. End result pretty much the same. Both are harbingers of malcontent.

  8. A bit of a pessimistic view all things considered, we know for a fact that Giggs has met van Gaal on at least one occasion, and it’s been a long time since managers were directly involved with transfers.
    Has the author never heard of e-mail, text, mobile phones etc, there is more than one way to do business these days, the onus is on Woodward to do the deals, van Gaal simply says who he wants, and doesn’t want, and that I suspect includes the Utd squad, and to that there were no real surprises on United’s released list either, van Gaal is going to want to make up his own mind about players.
    Stop reading the Daily Mail and all the other hacks, none of them have any real idea who United are going for.

    Graham is admin@ http://www.premierleagueforum.co.uk

  9. Excellent analysis as always but I think Woodward lives or dies by his effectiveness in the transfer market this summer

  10. grahams comments are bang on

  11. very pessimistic complaining about everything now-a-days

  12. Violent Banana says:

    Ed can you ban Graham please? I know I won’t like him.

    Spot on btw – the biggest summer in recent memory is in the hands of a man totally inequipped to deal with it.

  13. “I’ll be signing him…and him…and him…and him…and him…and him…and him…and him…and him…not forgetting him…….

  14. EXCELLENT read. Excellent! #GGMU #LUHG #LoveUnitedHateWoodward

  15. On Point!

  16. Subterranean Steve says:

    According to my crystal ball, this summer will not be one of massive rebuilding as United march towards a brave new world under King Louis. Rather, it will be a messy (would love to say ‘Messi’) period with transfer activity at a minimum during the World Cup, followed by players going on holiday and a pre-season tour led by Carrick and co. The new manager will need time to assess the current list of players at first hand etc. etc. Deja Vu.

    Sure Giggs and Woodwood can work at their roles in the interim, but come August 16th, it will be about van Gaal getting better performances out of the current squad than did Moyes. Rebuilding will take time. It may well have to be done incrementally. United need to avoid the pitfalls of panic-buying eg.as with Fellaini, whilst it awaits the availability of serious talent. United is not in a position to mimic City’s scattergun approach to transfers which is to buy expensive and to buy often, with a hope that out of that will come a winning team.

    Time for a bit of Dutch courage?

    • Denton Davey says:

      “van Gaal getting better performances out of the current squad than did Moyes”

      Couldn’t really do worse.

      I think that you’re right about the way in which things are going to unfold over the next couple of months – there is likely to be not as much change as the majority of us expected/anticipated/hoped for.

      Even without additions, the squad is still very strong in the attacking group but those players need proper support and instructions. If anything, there are too many attacking players which means that some will be disappointed and stuck on the bench. So, the key decisions for LVG is – as it has been for his two predecessors – “what to do with TheWayneBoy ?”

      It’s been very interesting following Scholes’ comments – he’s absolutely spot-on about Rooney being shifted backwards.

      • Subterranean Steve says:

        By mentioning August16th, I was referring to day one of the new season, and the situation in which van Gaal might find himself.
        Of course I expect him to get more out of the players than Moyes did, but it will not be a radically different team on that first day, to what it was last year.

      • MS Assefa says:

        Easy! Sell him for whatever and rid the squad of a pseudo world class player who brings much fanfare in the media and pundits alike only because he is English. I just hope Rooney along with Valencia and Jones (Rooney Mac II in the over rated department and should have been a rugby player imo) are the first to leave. I think Young can be useful off the bench at least in the EPL.

  17. ForeverRed says:

    Mixed signals from the club speaks of an institution floundering for a path forward. On the one hand we have to finish in the top 4 for the business model to be viable, on the other when a fast start is needed in the transfer market… nothing.

    Rebuilding is going to take 2-3 years; much longer and more expensive than it would have been had adequate replacements for the predictable retirees/departures been acquired an an evolutionary fashion over the last 3-4 years.

    A top four finish next season would be an impressive achievement from where we are now, regardless of who’s in charge. Any good manager needs tools to work with, are our cupboard has many shelves that are either bare or totally unproven at the top level.

  18. red1961 says:

    Not too worried at the moment. I don’t believe anything in the papers at this time of year. Jesus! I have read we will sell Mata and buy Gervinho!! What numpties wrote that?
    No club has signed anybody as far as I can see.
    Best guide is the bookies prices look at the Oddschecker site.
    Betting suspended on Shaw
    Kroos as short as 1-10 on to join United still !
    Fabregas 6-5
    Even the odds on Ronaldo have dropped this week from 10-1 to 7-1
    See similar odds on Sky-bet

    I live in Zurich and many of my work colleagues are Bayern ST holders and they all say Kroos is going to United. He wants more money than Schweinsteiger and that is not going to happen.

    Remember the first indication of Moyes getting the boot came when the bookies slashed the price on him leaving 24 hours before the papers printed anything.

    Reading some of the pessimism on here is amusing. Yes Woodward needs to prove himself, but I think nobody knows that more than him.
    Do people think LVG would have accepted the managers job if he didn’t have confidence that he could bring in the required talent?
    Do you really think LVG achieved his success by not spotting strengths and weaknesses in his teams.
    He will know more than any of us what is needed.
    This man is no Moyes!
    I truly believe that certain deals have been agreed and will be announced after the WC.
    Have patience and more than anything faith. Do not believe what you read in the newspapers as Ed quite rightly said they need to fill the pages in what is a notoriously quiet period.

    • Subterranean Steve says:

      1-6 that Kruse is joining United might appear to be the odds of a roaring certainty, however that same bookmaker will not give you any odds on him staying at Bayern.

      With these types of betting offers it is who/which team is left out of the market that you need to be aware.

      • Subterranean Steve says:

        Another example is that there is a market on Cleverley’s club after the transfer window. It’s a fourteen team market led by Everton at evens. Sounds like he is going to Everton.

        However the one team not in the fourteen is United. You can’t get a bet on Cleverley staying,

        Cleverley is going nowhere, and neither probably is Kroos.

        • red1961 says:

          You are completely correct. My point being since LVG has supposedly said he is not interested in Kroos the odds have not changed. Could somebody please show me the quote where he said this?
          Regarding TC23 I disagree this piece of cowardly dross will definitely leave. Useless and gutless!
          The whole point of my comment was to highlight the fact (in my humble opinion) that the bookies are a better barometer than the Daily Mail and other such rags. My Bayern colleagues are adamant Kroos will leave

  19. mongoletsi says:

    Sorry to be picky, but how does one wait for last summer?

  20. working with youth?

  21. I don’t like Woodward but no need for panic. No one else is signing right now. Won’t be easy signing players at WC camps.

  22. this makes me so happy.

  23. Since the Glazers turned the club in to a circus, it’s only to be expected that it’s being run by clowns.

  24. Twisted blood says:

    Bit too soon to hammer United yet. Other than Luiz who signed for a crazy fee from a crazy club, has there been another big signing?

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